- HotelTonight is striking sports deals faster than Aroldis Chapman pitches. The reservation app kicked off the baseball season by teaming up with the New York Yankees on stadium signage and branding, and digital and social-media campaigns, according to a press release. HotelTonight has also become the official hotel booking partner of the New York Rangers, New York Knicks and the Arena Concert Series at Madison Square Garden, per another press release.
- HotelTonight unveiled its New York agreements weeks after announcing it had stretched across the pond to join forces with the English Premier League team Chelsea FC on arena advertising, various campaigns featuring Chelsea FC players, and promotions and giveaways. A press release on HotelTonight’s soccer connection mentioned Chelsea fans will win prizes when the team scores in the final seven minutes of matches and fans who are members of the app’s loyalty program will receive exclusive access opportunities.
- Each of the sports affiliations involve HotelTonight expanding its GeoRates to game attendees. GeoRates are limited-time offers for specific hotels recommended based on the mobile phone locations of potential hotel guests. They are lower than HotelTonight’s already discounted rates.
In a sea of travel booking options, HotelTonight has distinguished itself as a mobile-first last-minute hotel reservation specialist. Its app finds deals on rooms up to a week before bookings. When HotelTonight introduced GeoRates in 2015, the app took advantage of both its global scope — it touches more than 25,000 hotels in 1,700 cities across over 35 countries — and its ability to pinpoint the location of individual customers. Sports stadiums appear to be ideal venues to put GeoRates into action. They hold thousands and thousands of people, most of which are toting phones. The app is betting many of these attendees will want a place to rest for the night. Prompted by HotelTonight’s signage throughout the stadium, it’s a decent bet at least a few of them will turn to the app to nab a bargain hotel rate.
In general, sports have great allure to marketers. They land brands on big stages in front of highly-engaged, captive audiences, rarities in a fragmented media and entertainment landscape. HotelTonight is much smaller than its chief rivals and could use the boost of awareness that might come from flashing its name regularly in stadiums. As Bloomberg quantified in a story last August, Expedia and Priceline both command more than $55 billion in gross bookings annually. In comparison, HotelTonight’s gross bookings hit $300 million last year. Headed toward an IPO likely taking place this year, a surge in those bookings wouldn’t hurt HotelTonight's pitch to investors.
Although sports sponsorships are popular, McKinsey & Co. argues marketers don’t do good jobs determining whether they yield beneficial returns on investment. In a report entitled “Is sports sponsorship worth it?”, analysts point out that research has revealed one-third to one-half of companies don’t measure sponsorship ROI comprehensively. For the estimated $60 billion yearly brands outlay for sports sponsorships, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to spend a bit to get a handle on the impressions sponsorships generate.